Vanderbilt Law Review


Allan H. McCoid

First Page



"Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption." -Oath of Hippocrates.

These words, allegedly formulated by the "Father of Medicine,"define the duties which physicians and surgeons over the years have sworn to perform toward those whom they undertake to treat. Like many oaths, however, the noble sentiments of the Greek physician are not sufficient to provide protection for the public. This is evidenced by the fact that over the twenty year period from 1935 to 1955, according to a survey made by the American Medical Association, some 605 decisions of appellate courts in the United States dealt with "malpractice" by medical practitioners' and by the further estimates that within a single year thousands of malpractice actions are commenced. Certainly not all of these actions represent meritorious claims, but a substantial portion do represent a failure on the part of the medical practitioners to "abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous" or a failure to use proper care in the treatment of their patients.